SAN JUAN – Roughly a score of people, including a 15-year-old boy, were still in custody on Wednesday at different Puerto Rico Police stations for engaging in violent conduct and interfering with law-enforcement officers during anti-austerity May Day protests in San Juan.
The San Juan Police Department said in a press release that the ages of the other detainees ranged from between 20 and 37.
The oldest of them is musician Luis Rodriguez Sanchez, who leads a project aimed at providing solar energy and water to a neighborhood in the southeastern Puerto Rican municipality of Humacao that was particularly devastated by Hurricane Maria last September.
Rodriguez and some of the other protesters were arrested in Rio Piedras, part of the San Juan metropolitan area, for “obstruction of justice,” a provision of the United States commonwealth’s penal code that makes it unlawful for a person to interfere with a public officer’s ability to perform his/her duties.
Police set up a barricade to prevent the protesters from marching to San Juan’s Milla de Oro (Golden Mile) financial district and used tear gas and pepper spray against the demonstrators when they tried to push their way through.
The incidents occurred on a day of protests called by unions, civil society groups and teachers against cuts promoted by the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (FOMB), which was created pursuant to the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability (Promesa) Act that then-US President Barack Obama signed into law in 2016.
The unelected FOMB was installed to restructure the island’s roughly $72 billion public debt load.
The demonstrators reject the measures the FOMB aims to impose on Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello’s administration, including an at least 10 percent reduction in public pensions and the elimination of mandatory Christmas bonuses for public employees.
Although Rossello’s administration opposes most of the proposed measures and has said it will not implement them, the demonstrators also protested against the plans by the island’s government to close around 300 public schools.